Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Perfect Living Situation: Give me two dorm rooms

This past weekend, my sitemate and I were invited on a bike ride and dinner in a teacher's dorm room.

I loved the living setup! It was perfect, simple and just enough space.

The teachers' dormitory is a building 5 stories high. The hallways are lined with doors that open up into a room with a concrete floor and big windows. There are doors off the hallway that lead to community sinks and bathrooms. I didn't see the showers, but I would suspect you have to go to another building to pay for a shower.

This particular teacher had two unconnected rooms. She used one as a bedroom/office and the other as a kitchen and dining area which she shared with other teachers.

It is the perfect setup. You have your own private space and then have a community kitchen and dining area. You get both privacy and the opportunity to meet people and form a network of cooking buddies, sports fanatics, and conversational friends.

However, I don't think I would enjoy this setup in the USA. Why? Well in the states, the individualistic society makes it difficult to form a community. For some reason, people like their space and usually meet people out on town to socialize. People create distance between themselves even if it is their next door neighbor. How many people do you know in your apartment complex or neighborhood? How many people do you know who start conversations with someone on the bus?

I remember a friend living in a shared apartment where each person had their own locked room. There was a communal kitchen and two bathrooms. Everyone went into their rooms and locked themselves in. No one talked or socialized. They were living in close proximity but a strong wall was put up.

In China, this wall is thin. People start talking to strangers on trains. They make small talk with store keepers. They exercise together. For example, tonight I saw about 50 older people all doing aerobics together in front of their apartment complex. Every morning, people walk to the hot water pipes to collect boiled water in kettles. In a place where most people walk to the supermarket, forming a tight knit community is easier than in a community of people driving around in their bubbles.

As an American from an individualistic society, I do cherish my privacy and am not lonely living alone which is difficult for people of a collective society to understand. I also, though, enjoy the benefits of living in a community oriented society. I also like the idea of shared community resources rather than having my own personal resources.

Hopefully some day in the future, I can live in my own dorm room in a community that is open to making friends rather than closing doors to strangers.

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